Life as a CCS Bard Student

The CCS Bard graduate program provides students with a rich academic environment including countless opportunities for learning outside of the classroom.  As I know first-hand as an alumna, and former staff member, student life can be challenging to communicate from a distance. I’ve compiled the following information with examples of the kinds of activities students engage in while in the program, in order to give potential students a better idea of what a day, a week, or a year in the life of a CCS Bard student is like.

Whenever possible, prospective students are encouraged to schedule a tour of our facilities in order to get a sense of day-to-day student experiences. While you’re visiting, you may want to view current exhibitions, take a tour of Bard’s campus, or sit in on a class.

With best wishes,

Sarah Higgins, CCS ‘13
Graduate Program Coordinator, CCS Bard (’13-’15)

Student Life at CCS Bard

Students at CCS Bard are expected to devote themselves to a rigorous curriculum of academic study and research, but the nature of the program is such that “curriculum” expands to accommodate a variety of interdisciplinary activities. A week in the life of a CCS Bard student might include implementing curatorial projects both on- and off-site; attending Visitor Talks by guest curators, scholars, and artists; attending meetings regarding collaborative projects; co-editing a publication with students from a partner institution; and participating in collaborations with regional organizations and those based in New York City, less than two-hours away. Students also spend significant time in the classroom and in one-on-one meetings with a dedicated faculty of curators, artists, and scholars.

Among the opportunities available to students are the oversight and production of the student-run online journal, ACCESSIONS. Exhibitions in the CCS Bard Galleries and Hessel Museum, all of which are free and open to the public, are curated by faculty, students, or guests and serve as a constant case study for observation, critique, and response in and outside of class.

The two-year program begins with a series of core classes focused on exhibition histories, theory and criticism of contemporary art, and curatorial and research methodologies. Additionally, much attention is paid to the practical, hands-on concerns of exhibition design and implementation. Students have access to the expansive Hessel Collection of contemporary art, as well as the CCS Bard Archives and Special Collections housed in our newly expanded Library & Archives. Student-curated projects making use of these and other resources take place throughout one’s time with the program, culminating in the curated component of a graduate thesis.

Elective courses take up a variety of specialized theoretical and historical contexts, concentrating on research, contemporary art, and curatorial contexts. Some courses are cross-listed with Bard College undergraduate programs such as Film & Electronic Arts and Human Rights, offering an expanded roster of faculty members as well as the insights of students outside of the program.

In the summer between the first and second years, each student conducts direct, project-based work and receives personal mentoring from a curator, scholar, critic, or other arts professional. These relationships are facilitated and developed in cooperation with CCS Bard advisers, and give students the opportunity to explore individual interests and establish themselves as working professionals.

In the second year of study, the coursework shifts to focus on the research and development, writing and implementation of a two-tier thesis project. The written thesis is a rigorously researched academic paper occupying a relationship, either direct or oblique, to the curated component of the graduate thesis. The curated component of the thesis project often takes the form of an exhibition, but projects may also engage in expanding the parameters of curatorial practice to account for discursive, hybrid, and publication-based projects.

In addition, second year students continue to take elective courses as well as participate in Second Year Practicum, a course which often partners with alternative organizations and institutions for extended projects. Recently, second year CCS Bard students have worked with the Judd Foundation, P! and the International Studio and Curatorial Program.

During the evenings and weekends, students enjoy the beauty and charm of the Hudson River Valley. CCS Bard students have free access to Bard College’s Stevenson Library, the recently expanded Stevenson Athletic Center, the Bard Farm stand, and other campus amenities including a regular college-wide schedule of film screenings, talks, and performances. The Bard College campus is beautiful throughout the year, and CCS Bard students often make a two-minute walk to enjoy views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains from Blithewood Mansion and its breathtaking terraced gardens. Another campus highlight is Olafur Eliasson’s permanent installation, The Parliament of Reality, next to the Frank Gehry designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Most graduate students choose to live off-campus in the nearby villages of Red Hook, Tivoli, and Rhinebeck, each with their own distinctive character. 

Life at CCS Bard is difficult to communicate from a distance. Whenever possible, prospective students are encouraged to schedule a tour of our facilities in order to get a sense of the day-to-day experience of our students. While you’re here, you may want to visit our current exhibitions, take a tour of Bard’s campus, or sit in on a class.